Who is My Antagonist?


By DiAnn Mills


A reader asked me how I discover my antagonist when creating a story. The short answer is discovering the bad guy or guys is as much a surprise to me as the characters and the reader.


My writing routine is packed with organization, discipline, and schedules, so the idea of plotting by the seat of my pants may be a little difficult to comprehend.

Except it's true.

Every writer has a method of establishing a story. Mine is all based on creating an adventure for readers. How can I send readers down a suspenseful path unless I experience it myself?

To figure out my antagonist, I must first know my protagonist. Since Im a character-driven, organic writer, everything rises from a three-dimensional character who will be my hero or heroine. My storyline churns from a what-if scenario. From there I spend hours, weeks, sometimes months creating the who and why a character is the only one to play a hero's role.

The process moves from a basic idea about the protagonist to a multi-page characterization sketch where I complete exercises and questions. My sketch has grown and been fine-tuned through two decades of writing. The goal is to learn the personality, backstory, goals, wants, needs, strengths, weaknesses, triumphs, failures, and the motivation propelling the character into action.

What does this have to do with the antagonist? I complete the same characterization sketch for my bad guy, discovering the motivation behind his/her actions and behavior. The difference is developing a character who has strengths in areas where my protagonist is weak, and to give the antagonist an edge on how to defeat the protagonist.

I want to show my antagonist:


      Unlikely to be the bad guy

      Highly motivated

      Redeemable qualities

      Possesses attributes of charm, wealth, ability to manipulate others, and/or extreme intelligence.

When the antagonist insists upon keeping his/her identity hidden, I have two solutions:

1.      Write a synopsis from the antagonist’s POV that shows superiority and a victory over the protagonist.

2.      Look at the story backward to find who is working behind the scenes.


There are times when I must let my story rest for a few days until I figure out the who and why. But discovering the antagonist is always an adventure.


How do you discover an antagonist when creating your story?

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.


DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. Connect with DiAnn on her various social media platforms here: www.diannmills.com



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